Barcelona sweeps Efes with another thriller
FC Barcelona swept the season series against Anadolu Efes Istanbul as it defeated the reigning champion 82-77 in a rematch of the 2021 championship game to snap a two-game losing streak. Barcelona prevailed in another thriller against Efes after winning in Turkey 93-95 in overtime in Round 13 in early December. Jokubaitis finished with a team-high 16 points while Nikola Mirotic scored 15 points - just 2 in the second half, and Sertac Sanli added 13 points and 7 rebounds in another big game against his former team. Efes dropped to 9-10 with its second straight loss despite Vasilije Micic tallying 18 points in the team’s first EuroLeague game of 2022 - including making 12 of 15 free throws. Shane Larkin collected 17 points and both Bryant Dunston and Krunoslav Simon contributed 12 points in the loss. Efes head coach Ergin Ataman was ejected midway through the third quarter with 2 technicals.
Simon opened the game with a layup and Cory Higgins got the hosts on the board at the other end. Mirotic gave Barcelona its first lead with a stepback three, 7-4. Higgins moved to 6 points and Mirotic added another triple and a three-point play as the Barcelona lead grew to 17-9. Barcelona failed to execute offensively after that, going scoreless in the final 2:55 while Larkin scored 4 points as Efes tallied the final 6 points of the quarter to make it 19-17 after 10 minutes.
Jokubaitis’s free throw started the scoring in the second quarter only to see Efes answer with 4 points to pull back ahead 20-21. Adrien Moerman netted the first three-pointer for Efes, which also got a three-point play from Dunston and a triple from Larkin in extending the advantage to 26-32. Sanli tallied 6 points to keep Barcelona close before Jokubaitis drained a three-pointer to even the game and Mirotic’s putback gave Barcelona the lead, 40-38. Larkin punched right back with a triple and Efes went into the break ahead 40-41.
Sanli and Nicolas Laprovittola hit three-pointers as Barcelona scored the first 6 points of the second half for a 46-41 lead. Micic gave Efes 2 free throws but Kyle Kuric added another triple and then converted free throws after Efes head coach Ergin Ataman was ejected with two straight technicals for a 51-43 advantage. Efes responded with the next 4 points to get within 4. The Barcelona cushion was again 8 after a Jokubaitis three-pointer. The guests scored 5 points at the other end, but Barcelona led 61-56 after 30 minutes.
Simon opened the final period but watched as Laprovittola scored once and assisted on two straight baskets as Barcelona charged ahead 67-58. Efes would not go away with 4 points from Chris Singleton and 2 Micic free throws to get within 3 points. Jokubaitis provided some relief with a three-pointer only to see Larkin’s free throws trim the margin to 70-68. Kuric hit another triple for the hosts, but Efes’s comeback continued as Larkin’s three-pointer made it 73-72 with 4 minutes to play. Jokubaitis managed a tough layup and was followed by a triple from Brandon Davies and a Mirotic inside score for an 80-72 cushion. Singleton scored for Efes and added a free throw following an unsportsmanlike foul by Mirotic with 85 seconds left to make it 80-75. Micic scored a quick basket but Jokubaitis converted another tough layup with 21 seconds left to make it 82-77 and secure the win.
Higgins starting to help more since return
FC Barcelona is still dealing with absences but one player who has returned - and is slowly producing more for the team - is Cory Higgins. The star guard missed nine games of action, sitting out Rounds 9 to 17 and finally came back for the Round 18 game at Bitci Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz. After playing 8:53 minutes against Baskonia, Higgins was on the court for 16:23 minutes versus AX Armani Exchange Milan. But he had only contributed a combined 3 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block in those games. Against Efes, Higgins collected 9 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 23:35 minutes for an index rating of 13.
Two straight big games for Dunston
Anadolu Efes Istanbul is slowly relying heavier on veteran big man Bryant Dunston. The 35-year-old had only scored more than 7 points once in his first 14 appearances this season with 13 points versus FC Bayern Munich in Round 14. But Dunston finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds in 22:26 minutes against Barcelona after having tallied 15 points and 8 rebounds in Round 18 versus UNICS Kazan - his two longest showings besides the game against Bayern.
Telling numbers: three-pointers tell the tale on both sides
Barcelona came into the game with the number one offense and nearly hit its average of 84.0 points. Coach Saras Jasikevicius’s team drained 10 of 20 three-pointers (50.0%), which improved the number one three-point shooting team’s numbers, having connected on 40.8% thus far. Efes had a shooting night to forget from long range, making just 5 of 26 (19.2%). The reigning champion also came up with just 9 assists and could not take advantage of making 28 of 33 free throws.
Thursday, January 13, 2022